Sunday, December 25, 2022

It's cold

the kind of cold that pushes every other topic out of the way. 

I mean, what else is there to think about when the water faucet's incessantly dripping in the sink to keep the pipes from freezing, and the dog's whimpering at the door but refusing to go outside, and the power company's texting scary warnings about the overloaded power grid. 

My anxious mind has a field day with bad weather. The what ifs and the what will we dos. 

We gather up candles, just in case, and my husband readies the generator. We brave the cold to shovel the driveway and clear off the car in ten-minute shifts. We bundle up the dog in her cozy winter coat and coax her out the door with treats. At night we drive the icy roads to pick up my brother at the airport. Miraculously, his flight isn't cancelled, and only one weird snafu with the luggage, but it all works out. 

Remember this:

a neighbor snow blowing our sidewalks and 

another neighbor bringing over homemade fudge (he has a bushy white beard and when I see him trudging through the snow, I call him Santa, and he laughs and says he gets that a lot this time of year) and

a dear friend risking a drive across town to bring gifts and homemade treats (specially made for my brother who is vegan) and

the kids calling, and family calling, and friends calling, everyone safe and warm and happy.

At night my brother and I do a puzzle like old times, Bing Crosby crooning in the background about white Christmases, and I tell a story about one of my favorite volunteers at the library, eighty years old, but still coming in twice a week to help and always with a smile. Hello! I always say when she walks through the doors, How are you? 

She always answers the same way. I'm here, Jody, and that means it's a good day. 

Christmas morning and the water plinks in the sink. It's eight degrees outside, but so very warm inside. 

I'm here. 

Sunday, December 18, 2022

In which I watch all the Christmas Rom Coms so you don't have to

Okay, I didn't have to, either. And not to throw my husband under the Christmas sleigh, but this was his idea. It goes back to the Covid Christmas of 2020 when our daughter and then-boyfriend/now-husband were quarantining with us and did a non-stop, multi-week, rom-com fest of Hallmark channel holiday movies that my husband and I mocked and then grudgingly half-watched and then sorta settled into and now feel an aching, nostalgic fondness for. 

Cut to: Christmas this year, with no adult kids at home, and maybe we wanted to capture that same magical fondness. [I just read this to my husband and he is adamant that it was not HIS idea, but MY idea.]

Regardless, we started our own version of the Holiday Rom Com Fest tradition, which is half a movie each night from Thanksgiving to now. (The half a movie per night thing is due to the fact that I typically conked out every night roughly partway through the one hour and thirty-minute movie.)

First up was the popular Netflix movie Falling for Christmas, starring Lindsay Lohan and this guy who really looked familiar but we couldn't place him and it turns out he was a minor-ish character on Glee. This movie hit that sweet spot between Really Stupid and Entertaining Because It's So Stupid. It features Lindsay Lohan as a spoiled ski hotel heiress literally falling off a cliff, waking up with amnesia, and being taken home by the Glee Guy, who's the owner of a struggling cozy inn/widower with an adorable daughter who makes a Christmas wish that her dad finds love.

So dumb and yet weirdly sweet, and I'd give it four candy canes on a five candy cane scale, except I was too distracted by the Glee Guy's ridiculously floopy hair, so I give it three. 

Castle for Christmas with Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes. She's a romance author who buys a Scottish castle. He's the owner who doesn't want to sell (to her). The townspeople are quirky and fun. The Princess Bride actor rocks the Scottish accent. Brooke Shields is gorgeous. Both characters are on the far end of middle aged, but hey! Why can't we oldsters find true love? Five candy canes!

Let it Snow. Teens find love on a snow day. That's about all I remember because I kept falling asleep.

Christmas Inheritance. Wealthy heiress stuck in a small, charming town. She's pretending to be poor (long story). He's the manager of the inn. Andie MacDowell is the wise mentor figure/bakery shop owner that elevates the whole thing. But what IS it with these romantic guys and their weird hair? This one's looked like it was pasted onto his head. Three candy canes for Andie McDowell.

Christmas with You. She's a famous singer who's waning in popularity. He's Freddie Prinze Jr. There's a fifteen-year-old daughter and an over-the-top quinceaƱera party. I love Freddie Prinze Jr. Three and a half candy canes. 

Noel Diary. Famous mystery author goes home to clean out his dead mom's hoarder house and falls for a girl searching for her birth mom. Wasn't sure where this one was going at first. Oh my God! Are they brother and sister? 

Spoiler: no. Three candy canes because once I figured that out, I was bored. 

Single All the Way. Gay best friend roommates pretend to be engaged when they visit one guy's hometown. Both guys are adorable and there's a whole fun side plot with the crazy aunt (Jennifer Coolidge), a frustrated actress defiantly trying to put on the town's nativity play she calls "Jesus H. Christ." Four big tasty canes. 

Happiest Season. This is the opposite of Single All the Way because it features two lesbians who pretend to be straight roommates so as not to offend the hometown homophobic family. Not a rom com? Also, this was the only movie where I did not want the two characters to end up with each other. They both (and really everyone in the family) need serious therapy. On the other hand, it was the only movie that I watched in one night without falling asleep. So, two candy canes, I guess, for keeping my attention? 

California Christmas. Super rich playboy pretends to be a farmhand so he can convince a dairy farmer daughter to sign over her land. I don't even know where to start with how dumb this movie is. The dairy farm's in Wine Country but the rich guy wants to put an Amazon style warehouse there? The girl has an entire dormant grape field that she forgets about until the end? WHO IS MILKING THE COWS? Half a candy cane. 

Love Hard. A writer famous for her articles about her bad dates finds love on a dating site, flies to his hometown to surprise him for Christmas, but SHE's the one who's surprised because he lied about his identity and used his more attractive friend's photo. Now she's pretending to be his girlfriend while getting dating tips from him to woo the attractive friend.

I loved everything about this movie. The fun, smart dialogue--playful arguments about Die Hard being a Christmas movie and Thoreau being a whiney jerk and whether or not "Baby It's Cold Outside" is too non-consent-y to be a Christmas song. The slew of quirky side characters--the narcissistic older brother, the boss demanding another bad-date article, the wine-drinking best friend. And lots of cute subplots with uber drivers and climbing walls and a steakhouse date with a vegetarian. 

Five candy canes plus a bonus candy cane because I really am glad the two got together, and I would so live in that charming hometown, and for one hour and thirty minutes I forgot it was just going to be me and husband for Christmas, 

Which, you know what? That is actually not a bad thing at all, especially now, with our new favorite tradition.  

Yes, what DID happen to Ted, Lindsay Lohan? 

PS: Share your favorite Christmas Rom Com and win a free virtual candy cane! 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

At the grocery store we check ourselves out

We scan our canned goods and weigh our vegetables. There's a helpful baggage merry-go-round thingy where you can set up your own cloth bags (the grocery store doesn't provide plastic bags anymore, but does offer paper bags, a nickel a piece). I scan the items, fumbling with the spaghetti squash and searching containers for the UPC code. My husband does the bagging. 

He's not thrilled with this new system, which is nearly all self-check-outs and only a handful of full service. The full service ones all have long lines. Who wants to stand in a line? We're both in grumpy moods when we leave the store. I'm thinking about how we just paid an arm and a leg for three avocados and the privilege to scan them and weigh them and count them. 

My husband's griping about the bags. Our car beeps.

We almost just hit that lady, my husband says. Thank God we have a car back-up camera. He goes back to talking about the bags, how we need sturdier ones, ones with flat bottoms, for ease of packing. 

He jerks the car to a stop again. That lady, he says. Look at her just wandering. 

I do look at her just wandering. She's older than us and weaving with her grocery cart from one side to the other, a sad brave smile on her face. She forgot where she parked, I say. 

Well, it's going to get her killed, my husband says. 

Eh, give her a break, I tell him. She's a ding dong. 

We're both on edge. The same afternoon in our neighborhood there was a Proud Boys White Supremacist march. I saw it in the news and recognized the houses. These are streets where I walk the dog. Men with masks covering their faces were protesting a drag story time. 

Some of the men had guns. They didn't like the idea that other people might want to go to a drag story time. A police officer high-fived one of the men. Later, the city's police chief said that was a form of community relations. 

We're almost home with our expensive, carefully self-scanned and bagged groceries. At the corner of our street, there's what looks like a protest march, and I'm instantly tense. Men wearing gray uniforms, some of them holding huge... guns? It takes me a minute to realize this is a Christmas parade. People are dressed in costumes. The men in gray are the Ghostbusters. The guns are their proton blaster things. 

The world changed somewhere along the way and I keep realizing it. Or it's always been this way and I have to learn it again and again. I'm the ding dong lady in the parking lot, gripping my cart, searching, grinning, hoping for the best. 

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Nearly ten days without a refrigerator

and my husband and I were annoyed, but resigned to tough it out, packing up coolers on the back porch, the bottles of condiments, the eggs and cheese, all of the Thanksgiving leftovers. (Yes, the refrigerator conked out on Thanksgiving night, gradually, and then all at once.)

While we were enjoying dessert, my husband scrolled around online to order a replacement, excited that one could be delivered Saturday. It was only after he placed the order, that we realized that Saturday actually meant the following Saturday. Worse, the weather had turned weirdly warm, creeping up into the fifties, so we had to keep replenishing the ice out in the coolers. Still, how quickly we adapted, 

heading out to the back porch for an egg or the mustard. We farmed out leftover turkey to a friend's freezer. We made do with room temperature drinking water. Nine days of this, and I said to my husband, Maybe, we don't even need a fridge! 

Haha I was joking, but it was good to know that we could deal with a major inconvenience without coming to blows. (Although, there was one moment when we did snap at each other over our not-entirely-frozen chocolate banana smoothies. The frozen bananas had gone to... gloop out in the cooler.) 

Totally unrelated, all week I was reading a book about the various transitions we go through in our lives, 

how we grapple with events that might shatter us—the job losses, the health crises, a death in the family. Along with those that are presumably joyous—a marriage, a career change, a new baby. For a while we spin around in confusion, trying to make sense of the new reality, but eventually we absorb, we manage, and eventually, we might even thrive again. Which is good to know, because for most of us, there'll be at least a dozen of these events over a lifetime.   

Living without a refrigerator for nearly ten days is a blip in the ultimate scheme of things. It's nowhere near as time consuming or emotional as a wedding. And it doesn’t come close to approaching the shock and grief of a death in the family. 

Coming so quickly after those two, though, I can tell you it's a blip that hits a tad harder, the kind of thing where you say, What else can happen? and then immediately want to reel those words back in, because you know what else can happen, and you really don't want to tempt fate, especially when you're still in the "spinning around in confusion"/"absorbing it" stage. 

Anyway, finally, the day came for the new fridge to arrive, and I almost couldn't believe it, thinking there would be a delivery delay or maybe it wouldn't fit properly. But it was almost too quick and easy how it all worked out. Within a few hours the condiments were back in their proper place, the eggs fitted into the lovely egg compartment, bananas freezing up nicely for the next morning's smoothies, 

everything normal again, at least in the kitchen. 

Sunday, November 27, 2022

It took me fifteen years to try it

and the next fifteen years, I couldn't get enough of it. I am talking, of course, about my mother-in-law's famous Dorito Casserole. She calls it her "Chicken Enchiladas." But I call it Dorito Casserole because, as the name implies, it contains Doritos. An entire bag, to be specific. 

So, the backstory here is that every Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law would make the dish, and often, I'd watch her make it (pro tip: do NOT do this) and I'd be... repulsed and have no desire to eat it, but then, the entire casserole would get snarfed down by everyone else, and I'd wonder,

but not wonder too hard, what I was missing. Until one day, there did happen to be a small bit of it remaining, and tired of all of the other leftovers, the mashed potato, stuffing, cranberry sauce, etc., I heated up some of the "Chicken Enchiladas," and let's just say, 

a new fan was born. 

(If the Dorito Casserole is wrong
I don't want to be right)

Every year after, and any year my mother-in-law wasn't here, I'd be the one opening the bag of Doritos and mixing up the gloop, the dish by then a family favorite, the first request of the kids when they came home for the holidays, the one recipe Thanksgiving guests would ask me for later, and I would always have to tell them: "Don't think too hard about what's in this." 

Okay, I'll tell you what's in this. * 

But first, let me tell you about the opposite of what's in this. Actual food. I've been thinking about actual food lately because my husband and I have been trying to eat better, and better, in our definition, means eating food. IE: things that aren't processed or are minimally so, things that our grandmothers would have identified as food. Except this isn't entirely true. 

Our grandmothers (and his mother) grew up on farms, and processed food (they would say "store bought") to them meant better. In their opinion, if you could afford to buy a can of tomatoes, why in the world would you spend time growing tomatoes, harvesting tomatoes, canning tomatoes? 

Interestingly enough, the grandchildren are enamored by growing and harvesting and canning. They shop at farmers markets and worry about sustainability and local food chains and food deserts. One set of kids is presently living and working on a farm, something that had many of the farm-raised older relatives shaking their heads in genuine confusion. 

I recently read a book about this present-day farm, a memoir by a woman who left her city-life to follow her husband's dream, a fully sustainable farm that can feed hundreds of people, and I must say I can see the appeal. 

One sticking point though: on Thanksgiving, can I still eat the Dorito Casserole? 

*As promised: Linda's Chicken Enchiladas (affectionately known as The Dorito Casserole)

  • 1 cup cooked and cubed chicken (or turkey)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
  • 1 medium jar of Cheez Whiz
  • 1 bag of Doritos
Mix together everything except Doritos. Pour small amount on bottom of baking dish. Alternate layers of soup mixture and chips. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 20, 2022

This plant opens in the sun

and closes up in the dark. It's very strange, how the fan-like leaves squinch up at night. How when I open the blinds for it in the morning, the leaves spread themselves wide and crowd in the same direction toward the window, the flowers arching toward the glass. 

I don't know what kind of plant it is but I like it. I tote it around the house in search of better sunlight exposure, not wanting to tell it that sunlight is precious this time of year in Central Ohio. I suppose it'll figure it out for itself. Meanwhile, I've turned on my Light Therapy Lamp

and it's sorta helpful, but even with it blazing, I can feel my energy drain drain draining away. The gray cold days around here are so... gray and cold. I want to curl up under the covers and lose myself in a book. I want to snarf down gooey cream soup-based casseroles. I want to squinch up like the leaves on my weirdo plant and go to sleep. How is it nearly winter? How is it that four days from now it's Thanksgiving? Yesterday 

I walked down to the farmer's market at the end of the street to pick up my pre-ordered turkey. I didn't think about how I'd have to heft it home. Twenty-two pounds, which seemed like something I could carry, and it was boxed up and easily carriable, but add a cold wind and the 25 degree temps, and how bundled up I was in my arctic coat, and three minutes into the walk back, the twenty-two pounds was feeling more like fifty. 

After I dumped the turkey off at the house, I trekked back to the market, the last day of the season, and not much left for sale except for random root vegetables. Not that I have anything against root vegetables, but I want the fresh spring kinds of vegetables. 

I want spring. 

I want it to be light in the morning when I wake up and light after dinner when I take the nightly walk with the dog. Instead, we walk

in the dark, past the droopy brown flowers lining the curbs, the icy wind blowing the dog's ears back, an unexpected swirl of snow that takes us both by surprise. Home, and I peel off my many layers of clothes, a toweling off of wet dog, a quick dash upstairs to turn my weird plant away from the window, one purple flower pasting itself defiantly to the glass. 


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Hello I am very loud

maybe it's the blaring music I listened to as a teenager, the concerts where you walk out of the stadium with your ears ringing, and now, the hearing loss is finally catching up with me. And/or maybe it's an old habit left over from being a teacher and public speaker. Also, my aversion to holding a microphone (I don't like how my hand shakes when I'm holding one), but no big deal because I CAN PROJECT MY VOICE. 

The problem is sometimes I do that, even when the situation does not call for it. A quiet restaurant. A conversation in someone's living room with family or friends. One of them shushes me, and I immediately vault back to being a child, the keeper of secrets who told, and 

was told: You have a big mouth. In my defense, the earlier times I told, and told quietly, no one seemed to hear me. 

This is all to say that Me and Being Loud go way back. But I wasn't thinking of any of this the other day at the library. I was at the help desk, greeting patrons as they came in to pick up their holds, scurrying over to the fax machine to help someone fax a document, helping someone else at the printer,

having a long, very loud (I'll admit it) conversation with Mr. W., one of our regular patrons, someone I adore and know is hard of hearing so we all have to shout when we speak to him. 

It's my day today! he said. 

and I said, OH YOU'RE RIGHT, VETERAN'S DAY (because I know he is a proud veteran) THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SERVICE! 

A short pause after he left to catch my breath, another patron heading over to the desk from the computer area, and what might he need help with? 

I have a complaint, he said, and I was all serious and ready to hear it. Trouble with the printer? A problem locating materials? An issue with our catalog, our magazine selection, a missing newspaper? 

You are very loud, he said, pointing at me. 


I stammered an apology and he went on. How he was trying to read and how very loud I was, over by the printer and at the computers and having very loud conversations with people at the desk. 

Oh, that. I started to explain about sweet Mr. W and how he is a regular patron and we know that he is hard of hearing. 

The man cut me off. Well, he should get his hearing problems taken care of! There was more grouching about how libraries have changed and not in a good way and aren't they supposed to be quiet and what was it with all of these people talking, all of these mothers and their crying babies and why couldn't they control their crying babies--

My ears were ringing at this point, worse than those blaringly loud concert nights, and now I was sputtering defenses of the people who needed help with the printer, the mothers with the crying babies (not that there were any around at the moment) but they were welcome in the library too, 

and Maybe, I said, gently, quietly, You would be happier at the main library, where there is a quiet room? Because this library, our library, doesn't have a quiet room. 

The manager came out then to resolve the situation, not that it could really be resolved. The man wanted quiet, wanted shushing, but the world has changed. Sometimes the library is loud. Some of our patrons are loud. I am loud. 

Or I guess I should say, I AM LOUD. 

I promise I'll try to keep my voice down in your living room or at a quiet restaurant, but when I am chatting with Mr. W, at the help desk, PLEASE DON'T SHUSH ME. 

Sunday, November 6, 2022

First, there was a wedding

and then there was a funeral. The wedding, we planned for over a year. The funeral, we took care of in less than an hour. 

And how efficient it was and easy, the funeral director so calm and gentle in his suit. The box of tissues on the table, an offer of bottled water. He opened his laptop and pulled up what I realized must be a fill-in-the-blank form. He called my father-in-law by his first name, but added a mister. And where was Mr. Richard born? And what brought y’all down here? And was Mr. Richard in the service? And what branch of the service was Mr. Richard in? 

And kindly to my mother-in-law: How long were you and Mr. Richard married? Fifty-eight years? Hmm. He was typing on his laptop and looking over the top of it, stopping every now and then to let us all collect our thoughts. 

I don’t know what all of our thoughts were. I know mine were a mixture of all the words for stunned. The loss of my father-in-law and how his kind face kept floating up in my mind. The time my college boyfriend took me home to meet his dad and mom, how kind they both were and welcoming, taking us out to a show at the Grand Ole Opry and then to dance at country and western bar. Me, a manic Yankee girl from Connecticut, doing some kind of country western showdown whirl around the dance floor with my soon-to-be father-in-law. 

He was a good person. I know everyone says this when someone dies, but in his case it is all true. A good husband. A good father and grandfather. A good friend. 

But back in the funeral director’s office, I was amazed at how smoothly and quickly the process was going. Putting the finishing touches on the obituary and the service, selecting the coffin. And why wouldn’t it all be smooth and quick with this clean-cut man in his suit? He must’ve done this thing a thousand times. 

And that had clearly been enough times to know that it was the very first time for us. 

A week ago we were at a wedding and now we were going to a funeral. The planned for a year wedding. The planned for an hour funeral. Both had the food, the flowers, the music. The loved ones gathering. The laughing and crying together. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Every day there is an affirmation

in the 10 minute yoga morning movement class my husband and I do. This is an online thing we have discovered after I did my goat yoga class and felt so centered and joyful that I wanted to bring it all home with me--

not the goat part, but the centering and joy--and we found it with Kassandra with a K on Youtube, and unrolling our yoga mats out in the living room and doing our deep breathing and bowing with our hands to our hearts and repeating the day's affirmation, something about peace or abundance or inviting calmness into your life or whatever, and so of course, we wanted to do this

on the day of our daughter's wedding. Not enough yoga mats, and the living room in the Airbnb was really too small for the four of us--husband and me, daughter and son--but we parked ourselves on the carpet and stretched and reached, down-dogged and warrior-posed, laughing at one point when our legs tangled up, reminding me of a Twister game, Kassandra with a K, all perky 

on my laptop, revealing her affirmation, which fit perfectly for the day ahead: 

I am a vessel of love, she said, and the four of us repeated it dutifully, and later throughout the day, when we dressed and posed for pictures, when we greeted family and friends, during the ceremony and after, the dancing and toasting, the evening, so long looked forward to and prepared for, and now whirling on, swirling past, 

until the final moments, a bride and groom run under sparklers, and teary hugs goodbye before all heading in different directions,

but back to the morning on the carpet, when we were all still together--

I know I know I know we can't make time stop, can't roll it back up like yoga mats to unroll whenever we want, light the sparklers again or button the tiny white buttons on the back of the wedding dress, cut the flowery cake anew, or fling open the doors and see the radiant bride for the first time, making her way down the aisle toward her groom, but listen

and repeat after me:

I am a vessel of love. Now bow your heads.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Stretch your legs and smile, as Louie the dog stretches his paws too and gazes at all of his silly lovely people. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Not pink sandals but

Yesterday I bought shoes.  

I had been putting off buying shoes because I don't like buying shoes. Or shopping in general. (See: my recent struggle to buy a mother-of-the-bride-dress.) But that turned out to be... not so hard, and I was thinking, Okay, maybe I can replicate that experience with the shoes. 

But then I got covid. (See: how I got covid) and that set me back a few weeks, and then, suddenly, this wedding is less than a week away!!! and I still had no shoes. 

Anyway, I bought a pair yesterday, and only a few stressful moments, trying on different styles and wanting to be the kind of person who could pull off the trendy shoes, the strappy shoes, the pointy-heeled shoes. The ones with the sparkles, the glitter, the color. 

But this just isn't me. Apparently, I am a nude-shaded, medium-heeled, pumps woman. Also, I require the cushion-y inserts for extra arch and heel support. For the record, the shoe salesguy approved of my choice and I admit that his approval gave me joy. 

The shoes have a little shine to them, a lovely glossiness, and that gives me joy too. I want more of that. Joy. 

I walked out of the store swinging my shopping bag, and for a weird moment I am years in the past, a young mother, my two-year-old daughter (soon to be the bride!) clasping my hand. We are walking past a shoe store and she tugs me toward the display window. A pair of bright pink sandals behind the glass. Another tug into the store, where against my better judgment, I let her try the sandals on. 

She doesn't want to take them off. I have a brief war inside myself. The sandals are 35 dollars! At the time, a lot of money for a pair of child's shoes. And up to that point I have never bought myself a pair of shoes that cost that much. But my daughter looks so adorable wearing them and pointing at her feet and saying, "Pink sandals" in her sweet high little toddler voice. 

I bought her the shoes. 

And now I remember how the rest of the day she kept stopping to bend down, to wriggle her toes, and sing out "pink sandals" so joyfully that I let go of any regrets I had about the pricey purchase and stopped whenever she did to sing it with her. Pink sandals pink sandals pink sandals

And what joy we both had that day.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Pandemic Diaries: Two Years and Seven Months In and it finally got me

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

I wake up with a sore throat

and think: Allergies. No big deal. The weather's gotten cold recently and we've had to turn on the heat, the house is dry, the leaves are turning, etc. I head off to work, wearing my mask, because I always wear my mask when I'm working, despite the fact that my husband and I recently had the new bivalent booster and cases seem to be down lately in our area (but... hard to know? Ohio no longer posts new daily case numbers).

The general feeling I have is that I am totally protected, but just to be on the safe side, I've continued with the masking. My daughter's wedding is at the end of the month! I've got no time to catch a virus! Work, and I'm fine. I do a shift in the youth department and am so excited when I notice that one of the eggs in our chick-hatching display has a crack in it. 

Tomorrow, for sure, I'll get to greet the baby chicks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

I'm sick. 

It hit me as I was going to bed. The sore throat, way worse now. A headache. And I am so cold I can't take it anymore. I get out of bed and throw my warm pajamas on, socks, my bathrobe, and burrow back under the covers. When my husband comes to bed a few hours later, he's sick too.  

In the morning we take covid tests. Mine is positive. His is negative. But we both feel like we got run over by trucks in the night. I call my manager and my doctor. The library protocol for covid is what the CDC recommends. Five days isolation. Back to work day six, if you're symptom free. I sack out on the couch. My manager drops soup and crackers and cookies off and I love her. Later, I do a telemedicine appointment with my doctor. She prescribes paxlovid, "because of your age," she says. 

I eat the soup and think, I have covid! How did this happen? My husband and I wrack our brains. The people we've interacted with. The minimal places we've gone. Do we know anyone who is sick? The truth is that all this time-- all the way back to March 13, 2020--I knew I could get this. I knew that eventually we were ALL going to get this, but still, 

I have to admit there was always a smug part of me that thought: 

Yeah, but not me. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

The chicks hatched. My coworkers send me pictures and videos. Plus, there's a live feed where I can watch them hobble around, wet and weirdly dragon-like, bonking into each other and sometimes keeling over. 

I'm keeled over on the couch. My husband, still negative! but with the same symptoms I have, is back to work up in his office, taking naps between tele-meetings. One of his co-workers is from India and has had covid twice. He shares a tea recipe that he swears will help soothe our sore throats. 

It (sorta) works!

Recipe: Hot water, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp basil, honey and lemon

A friend sends an instacart order to our house and I love her. More soup. And also bread and lovely soothing-on-the-throat Italian ices. 

Friday, October 14, 2022

I'm fine, basically, except for the sore throat. I eat soup and drink turmeric tea and snack on Italian ices. The paxlovid leaves a metallic taste in the mouth that lingers, despite the soup and turmeric tea and Italian ices. My co-workers send more pics and videos of baby chicks, no longer dragon-like, but fluffy balls, cradled in their hands, cheeping adorably. I can't believe I am missing this! 

I read a book about a future plague. I read a book about the world collapsing. I read a book about racial and economic injustice. I watch a bunch of tik tok videos about people walking their dogs. 

I take a walk with my husband and the dog. The red and orange trees give off their own light. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

Still, with the damn sore throat. It's like I swallowed knives. But otherwise, I don't feel sick. A friend shops the farmer's market for us and I love her. My husband and I watch a movie in the middle of the day. Everything Everywhere All at Once and we both laugh and cry and feel immense love for humanity. We slurp soup and drink tea and eat Italian ices and now, have added farmer's market honeycrisp apples into the rotation. 

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Wake up and no sore throat! It's cold outside and my husband and the dog are still sleeping upstairs. The house is quiet and warm. I make a cup of tea. 


Sunday, October 9, 2022

In which I lose my mind on a roving cleaning supply salesman (and possibly confirm NPR's theory about pandemic personality disorder)

I want to tell you it wasn't my fault! That the person who came to my door was the one who started it! That he was selling some crappy cleaning fluid that I absolutely did not want and he had interrupted my writing time by knocking on my door and freaking out the dog, 

who had been peacefully snoozing on the bed in my office, but upon hearing the door-knock, leapt off the bed and hurled herself down the stairs, forgetting momentarily that she is ten years old and has a bad hip and weak back leg, and so, therefore, tumbled most of the way down.

Also, the cleaning supply man was ON my front porch, knocking on the glass front door, and not on the steps OUTSIDE the screen door, where we have a clearly placed, perfectly working doorbell,

which gave me a brief scary flashback to the day three years ago when a social worker and two police officers were standing on the porch, peering through the glass door as the dog barked like a vicious hound from hell (instead of the normally darling sweet lovable Good Dog she is), because 

a guy who knew the previous house owners and apparently was using our address, had done something suspicious and the social worker and police were here to find him, and when I carefully slipped out onto the porch, trying to keep Crazy Dog inside so a police officer wouldn't claim he feared for his own life and had no choice but to shoot her, 

and explained that the guy they wanted didn't live here, that I didn't even know this guy, and the social worker and police officers kept looking at me skeptically, and I wondered for an anxiety-provoking moment if they might not believe me and would push me out of the way and go investigate themselves, and what if I hadn't been home, what if they broke down my door and and and-- 

(this is how my mind spirals out of control, even three years ago, never mind now, post Pandemic and Late Stage Capitalism and Downward Slide of Democracy and Fall of Roe and Women's Loss of Bodily Autonomy) 

Cut to, I was persuasive enough to the social worker and the police of three years ago, because they left, somewhat reluctantly, but score another point for privileged in-a-bubble middle-aged white women, 

and cut to-cut to, the cleaning supply salesman still standing on my front porch, emphatically waving his cleaning supply bottle. He was smiling and gearing up for his cleaning supply spiel, when I held up my hand and shouted, NO. I DON'T WANT THAT!

"But you don't even know what I'm selling," he said, smile faltering.

AND I DON'T CARE! GO AWAY! And then I slammed the door in his face. 

I felt terrible and wrung out after this encounter and kept replaying the episode, how I yelled at the guy and how I slammed the door in his face, and at the same time defending my own off the wall response and also playing the part of the guy (a hazard of being a writer, where you can't help but see the scene from his point of view, a guy just doing his job and some insane woman screaming at you, oh well, all in a day's work), 

until I read this article on about how maybe our personalities have changed since the pandemic, making some of us more distrustful and suspicious and wary and who can blame us, and I sincerely hope this is not true, and that most humans are still generally trusting and open and kind, and that I am the type of person who can politely say no to strangers without losing my mind, but in the meantime, 


(Excuse me. What I meant to say is, if you are trying to sell me something (and good luck with that LOL), would you please kindly stand outside of my house and ring the doorbell?)


Sunday, October 2, 2022

The chick eggs at the library

are supposed to hatch on October 12th, give or take a couple of days. How do you know this, the patrons ask me when I am working down in the Youth Department, the eggs sitting (resting? warming? percolating?) in the incubator nearby. 

I explain that the local farm that sent us the eggs included a helpful info sheet. In addition to when we should expect the eggs to hatch, they've also given us instructions on how to keep them warm and watered until the hatching. How to handle the baby chicks once they do break through. And what happens if one or two... don't. But I gloss over that part. 

In the meantime, we're inviting our young patrons to suggest names for the baby chicks. I am all about this chick hatching program and must confess that it is giving me an absurd amount of joy. Almost as much joy as the library's goat yoga program several weeks ago. I mean, how can you not find joy when a baby goat hops up onto your shoulders? Well, okay, it wasn't a total joy when one of the goats pooped on my yoga mat. But

that was easily cleaned off and we all went on about our goat-yoga-ing. But back to the baby chick eggs. Their arrival was a blessing that kept my mind off the hurricane that was bearing down on Florida, where one of my aunts lives alone. I talked to her the day before the storm made landfall and she seemed completely prepared and calm about it all, reminding me that she'd taken a direct hit from Hurricane Charlie in 2004 and 

did I remember how she called me frantically after hitchhiking with some strangers who happened to be riding past, lovely people who offered to drive her out and through and past the devastation until she could find a cell signal?

Well, yes, I did remember that. And I remembered asking her what I could do to help and how she told me to call a rental car place and have them send a car for her (hers was being repaired and now she was stranded with no electricity and no water, and if she had a car, at least she could get out of there.) 

This happened eighteen years ago and it actually seems more absurd to me now than it did then, but basically, I did call a rental car place (Enterprise, because I really want to give this company credit) and pleaded with the guy who answered the phone to drive a car to my aunt, something like 45 minutes away and in the middle of a disaster area, and no, he would not be able to call to confirm that she was there, and even as I was explaining all of this to the guy, I could hear how nuts it sounded. 

But crazily enough, he agreed to it, and he drove the car out to her and she rode with him back to the rental car place, where she paid him and took possession of the car, and that was when she called me to say, Thanks! as if she just knew he'd come through for her, as if we lived in a world where things like that happened and people did momentous acts of kindness for complete strangers, because I guess, sometimes, we do live in that world? 

So, thank you Mr. Rental Car Guy for reminding me of our shared humanity, our compassion for our fellow humans, especially now as I read terrible comments from people online about the storm survivors in Florida, how they chose to live down there and how dumb they were not to leave and what do you expect. 

Here's what I expect: that people who write comments like that maybe not write comments like that. A big ask these days, I know, but I'm putting it Out There. Meanwhile, waiting for my aunt to call and waiting for my aunt to call and waiting for my aunt to call, I eyed the chick eggs, none of them ready yet, but all of them (most of them?) sitting resting warming percolating until they are and then--

she called! She made it through unscathed, and this time with a working car and no need for anyone to call a rental car place. If we'd had to, I'm not sure a request like that would've worked this time. 

But in my Choose Your Own Adventure version of this story, I am going to leave you with this ending:

Every egg hatches, and the rental car guy always drives through the wreckage to save the stranger. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Maybe someone cared about this place once

took the time to set the plants in motion. Orange daylilies in the spring. The black-eyed Susans in summer. Purple aster and rosy pink sedum in fall. It took me several years to figure the patterns out, the first year spent surveying the mess, the plants toppling over each other, the choking weeds, and everywhere, shoots of #%$^% bamboo. 

That was the first thing to go. That, and the prison door. 

Some days I seriously thought about tearing everything out, scouring it down to the hard, packed dirt. But then I would've missed the design hiding under all of that mess. How each season's flowers give way to the next. There's a metaphor hiding here too and if I thought I could explain it to you, I would, but for now, let's pretend I'm talking about my backyard, 

and how I learned what needed to be shed and what might be lovely to keep. 

1. It helps to know what you are dealing with. IE, what these plants are. This seems like a no brainer, but I can't tell you how long I spent trying to identify this stuff. You can google, and there are plant identifying apps and books, of course, but I found it most helpful to ask a more knowledgeable gardening friend. Think: therapist, but with flowers.

2. Don't do anything you may regret (except for what you are absolutely sure about--the prison door; the noxious bamboo). It really is okay to take your time while you get your bearings. 

3. But at some point, you will be ready to act, and when you are, do it. Dig out a plant and plop it somewhere else. Rip something else out all together and toss it in the compost. 

4. Or don't. Not everything is worth saving.

5. This is your garden now, after all. Acknowledge what was gifted to you and then draw up your own design. Plant your seeds. Find joy in what grows. 

6. As for the rest—take a breath. It’s okay. I promise—let it go. 


Sunday, September 18, 2022

I Yoga-ed with a Goat (and I liked it)

Something interesting that I noticed yesterday when I was doing goat yoga in the park outside the library is that when a baby goat jumps on your back, and their little hooves nudge and shuffle over your shoulder blades, and their tail switches against your neck, and their furry body bonks the back of your head, you can't help but be in the moment. Being

in the Moment is something I've been working on for years and with varying degrees of success. Day-to-day moments like walking the dog and doing the dishes and checking in books at the library are moments I can manage. These are quiet moments where I can reasonably expect what is going to happen next. 

Also, it helps to be on vacation, dog paddling around in the cool water of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. And now I can add: Sit in a Park and Let Baby Goats Jump on Your Back to my list. But what I really want is to stay present in moments without the cool ocean water and without baby goats. 

Moments that are uncomfortable. Stressful. Scary. These are the moments when I slip into what I've learned is a trauma response. You may have heard of this as "Fight, Flight, or Freeze." It's our body's way of protecting us when we perceive danger. Of course when you really ARE in danger, these responses good. They are automatic, self-protective, and essential for survival. 

The trouble is, later, when you are no longer in danger, your body may still be hard-wired for these responses, perceiving threat where there is none. An example is a soldier home after battle who cowers at the sound of fireworks or a car backfiring. But trauma response also occurs in survivors of childhood abuse, victims of natural disaster, or any number of life-altering events.  

In my case I may run away or I may lash out at someone, but typically, I dissociate. In other words, I disappear. Disappearing seems like the most innocuous of the three responses, and I even used to joke about it, how when things get too rough I can float right out of my own head, and what a fun trick that is. Except, 

it isn't fun. Because the thing about disappearing is that when you do it, you miss things. Important things. Like bits and pieces of holidays and birthday parties. Your child's graduation. Your own wedding. And when you "come back," which you inevitably will, you are jittery, wrung out, sad and ashamed.

There is the added element of powerlessness. Something happens to trigger you, and you respond, as if a button has been pushed. I don't know who I am speaking to here, in this moment, or who might need to hear this, but I have recently learned that there is a space between the trigger and your response.  

And you can sit in that space and ground yourself. With some practice, you may be able to take a breath and keep yourself from floating away. 

The goats don't know what yoga is, the goat handler told us at the beginning of the yoga class. They are just here. Clomping around in the grass on a lovely day in the park in front of the library building. Stopping to inspect and munch on a leaf. Pooping on someone's yoga mat (okay, that was MY yoga mat!). And every now and then 

clambering joyfully onto someone's back. I mean, me. They were clambering onto my back. And weirdly, I liked it.   

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Bee Moment

The water was cold at the beach and every morning it took me a good twenty minutes to work my way into it. First, to the tops of my feet, up to the ankles. Then to the knees. The thighs. An excruciatingly long moment at the waist. Until at last, the final plunge. Once I was all the way in though, it wasn't so bad. 

Actually, it was very nice. 

I'd paddle around, drifting on my side, rolling onto my back. Watch the seagulls landing on the nearby rocks. A sailboat gliding past. And somewhere in the distance the honk of the ferry horn. It occurred to me that I was not tangled up in my own thoughts about the past or worrying over something that might happen in the future. 

Instead, I was present and relaxed, fully inhabiting the moment. But then, I was on vacation. Why wouldn't I be relaxed? The trick would be coming home, and how could I bottle up this feeling? Take the Here with me. The ocean scrabbling over the sand. The seagulls... cawing? Cooing? Whatever sound it is that seagulls make. 

All week I was reading a book about time travel, a span of four hundred years, and every hundred years a global pandemic. Which doesn't sound like a fun book, I know, but strangely, it was soothing to me. How time kept repeating itself, and in each time, it was surprising, and somehow, not surprising. 

We go on vacation. We come home. 

But wait. It wasn't the moment on vacation I wanted to bottle up and carry with me. It was the moment-y moment of wherever I was, wherever I am. Flipping through books at the library. Or tapping on my keyboard. Or shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress (I found one!) (WOOT WOOT!) 

Or just this morning passing by the bobbing flowers in my garden, quietly slowing, so as not to wake 

a sleeping bee. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

A Library of Dresses

would be nice, but I don't think this is a thing. At least not where I live. What some people may not know is that there are all kinds of items--in addition to books, movies and music--available at their local library. 

At my library in Columbus, Ohio, for example, you can borrow a mobile hotspot, a tape recorder, and a light therapy lamp (the kind that helps you combat seasonal depression). At other libraries in our system there are jigsaw puzzles, boardgames, headphones, and a set of orange parallel parking cones. 

And at the lovely library in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, a place I visited a few weeks ago on my vacation, I found a delightful assortment of items ready for checkout, including a sewing machine, a tortilla press, a telescope, a ukulele, and a Halloween Monster cake pop pan, just in case you ever find yourself in need of one of those.  

I mean, LOOK AT THIS fun brochure:

But unfortunately, the Woods Hole Public Library does not offer dresses, specifically, a Mother of the Bride dress. 

Which is a giant bummer, because I could really use one of those right now. Instead, I trekked it out to the expansive outdoor mall in our area, accompanied by my husband, who is the best sport ever, the two of us dodging the crowd, the crowd itself, the main topic of our conversation. Who are all these people? I would say, or my husband would say. And then I would add, or he would add, 

And why are they here?

Why are WE here? was the follow-up question. But that answer was easy. Because the library does not offer Mother of the Bride dresses in the catalog and our daughter's wedding is in (gulp) eight weeks. 

Here is the thing about me and shopping: I don't like it. The rummaging through racks. The trying on of clothes. The part where you squint at the three-way mirror and realize that while the sorta okay dress looked sorta okay hanging on the hanger, it sorta does not look okay when it's hanging on you. 

Everyone and their mother is in this store right now, I text to my best friend and my daughter, who are both very kindly (virtually) nudging me along. And then after a beat, Wait, everyone and their mother really IS in this store right now. 

Turns out these dress shops are crowded with daughters shopping with their moms for homecoming dresses. There's a line to get into the dressing room. Crowds of teenagers traipsing past the fancy mother-of-the-bride-ish looking dresses toward the younger, more sparkly Homecoming-ish style.

Suddenly, I am flashing back to shopping trips with my daughter when she was in high school, the flinging of different sized dresses over the dressing room door, the oohs and ahs at my darling little girl turned lovely grown up young woman, the trip we took less than a year ago when she tried on her wedding dress, that dress not sorta okay at all, 

but stunning on the hanger, on her, a radiant soon-to-be-bride in eight short weeks! And Oh my gosh 

what am I doing, whining about trying on a dress (well, truthfully, A LOT of dresses) when I know one of them will turn out to be completely fine, and anyway, who even cares what I'm wearing, as long as it's hanging on me somewhat comfortably, my hand in my husband's hand, our daughter and son-in-law, our gathered family and friends, each of us in our bought/rented/borrowed clothing, so happy to be here

and all of us together. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Frances hit the tree again (and other stories I heard on my vacation)

We were walking in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, my husband and I, a stroll over a bridge, a harbor, the boats bobbing along, and as an elderly man and his wife passed by, the man stopped and pointed over his shoulder. "Frances hit the tree again," he said, and I nodded, as if I knew Frances, as if I knew what tree he was talking about. 

"It's a mess," the man said. "All over the road. But if you stay on this side of the street, you'll be okay." I nodded again and smiled. I was thinking What a nice place this is, where strangers issue warnings about fallen trees, where the gossip about Frances, whoever she is, whatever problems she's suffering from (crashing into trees! Oh my God!) is the gentle, informative kind of gossip, and not the mean, disparaging kind. 

Who's Frances? my husband said. 

I started spinning out theories. Frances the town goofball, the concerned chatter about her increasingly shaky driving abilities. My husband thought maybe Frances had been riding a bike. But would that knock a tree down, we wondered. We'd reached the corner and turned, and there was the tree ahead, a large piece of it lying across the road, and suddenly it occurred to me that what the man had actually said was not "Frances hit the tree again," but,

something more like "Branch fell from the tree up there." (For the record, I like my version of this story better.) 

And then there were the women walking on the beach as my husband was angling to take a selfie with me and our son. Our son was the reason we were visiting Woods Hole. Spoiler alert: he and his longtime girlfriend were going to propose to each other that night! Her parents have a house in Woods Hole, and the family, and our son and his girlfriend had invited us to stay nearby, show us the town, be there for the big moment. The women on the beach stopped,

and one of them offered to take a picture of the three of us. "Life is short," she added, and I thought she'd said, "Like your shirt," and I was already spinning out theories about why she might like my husband's shirt, or my shirt, or maybe she was talking about our son's? This miscommunication was cleared up more quickly than the Frances saga 

because the woman helpfully repeated herself and we all agreed that life IS short and we let her take our picture and then offered to take hers and her partner's, and after the picture-taking we chatted like old friends, saying Life is short to each other because it really and truly is.

My future daughter-in-law's parents live on the water and at night they served us dinner out on the porch and I couldn't get over the place, the people, the sailboats drifting by, the hoot every forty-five minutes of the nearby ferry going back and forth to Martha's Vineyard, which all of the Woods Hole-ians simply call "The Vineyard," the flowery tablecloth that I decided was not fancy but festive, and why couldn't I have a tablecloth like that if I wanted it? 

Answer: I could. I do now. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Every morning my husband and I waded out into the cold water and watched our son and his girlfriend swim laps out to a buoy and my husband kept saying, This water is so cold! And I would say, I know! and then we would dare each other to dunk in, egging each other on by repeating our new favorite mantra: Life is short. 

What do you think Frances is up to now, my husband asked me as we shivered together, our son and future daughter-in-law small blips against the horizon.  

Only yesterday, it seemed, we were dropping our son off at college, one of the many times we dropped him off at college, and he said, I want you to meet my new girlfriend, and later, on the drive home, my husband said, Do you think she is the one? 

And only the yesterday before that, our son was in high school whacking lacrosse balls in the backyard, in middle school building hovercrafts out of leaf-blowers with his best friend, a ten-year-old riding a bike ahead of me on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the last time we visited this part of the country, and now--

The same night Frances hit the tree and the woman complimented our shirts, we all walked out on the beach as the sun was setting, my husband and me and our son's girlfriend's parents, the four of us hanging back, watching, as our son and their daughter walked ahead, out along a jetty, stopping at the tip, a sparkle of sunlight on the water. 

Our son got down on one knee and after a few moments, he stood, and she got down on one knee. 

And then it was over. 

The sun had set. The ferry hooted as it made its way out of the harbor or into it. We drank champagne and made toasts and I didn't say it but I was thinking it: this place, these people, 

this moment

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Don't tell the dog we're going on vacation

because she gets nervous. Or maybe I am the one who gets nervous. I don’t know where this comes from, my travel anxiety. My need to scour the entire house, for example, before we can walk out the door. 

I mean, I love vacations, I just don’t like the part where you have to prep, to pack, to travel to get wherever you are going. My husband knows this about me after many many years of witnessing it, and mostly he goes with the flow. 

Okay, he says, I get why you want to have clean sheets on the bed, why you want the bathrooms to be clean, why you want to leave a detailed note for the dog sitter, but why are you—what are you—? 

He stops mid-step into the kitchen, where I am presently taking an orchid plant apart in the sink. 

(What led to this was we have an orchid that’s been dormant for two years and I thought it was dead and was ready to pitch it, but this morning I saw a Tik Tok video that shows step-by-step how to revive an orchid plant. It is truly amazing.) 

My husband is slowly shaking his head.

I was cleaning the sink, I explain, which led to me cleaning the windows above the sink and then clearing the plants off to dust the sill, and then I saw the orchid… 

He’s still shaking his head, and I notice him noticing the food I have set out on the counter, the travel snacks I’ve planned for the road. Tomatoes and basil I picked from the garden, which I’m readying to toss into a caprese salad. Fruit I’ve washed. Veggies I’ve cut to go with some hummus dip. The parsley and mint and onions I’m chopping to go into the—

Is that tabbouleh? My husband asks incredulously. Are you making a tabbouleh salad? 

But back to the dog. Typically, before we leave on vacation, she seems to catch my anxiety, whirling around behind me as I scour toilets and change sheets, and erm, revive orchid plants and prepare homemade tabbouleh salad. But the moment she sees us dragging the suitcases up from the basement, she goes into full blown terror mode, panting and crying. I have a brilliant idea as I tuck the now already-perky-looking orchid into a jar of water and set it back on the windowsill. 

Let’s not take out the suitcases! We’ll keep them in the basement and carry our clothes and toiletries down there to pack!

My husband busts out laughing, but God love him, this is exactly what we do. 

Let me tell you the secret of the orchid plant. Over time, the root ball gets tired and tangled up, pieces of it, shriveled and dead. But with a little patience, you can untangle it, cut off the dead bits, clean it all up and get the plant going again. 

Wait. I think what I am actually writing about here is not orchids or worried dogs, but about vacations and why, even though some people are always anxious before they embark upon one, they still need to GO. 

So, I go. I’m gone. I’m here. Away from home and only one day in, feeling untangled and revived. 

By the way, before we left, the dog figured it out. In the morning, as I tiptoed around packing the cooler with what my husband calls the Bougie Travel Snacks, while I thought the dog was still asleep upstairs, she woke up and caught my husband in the act of carrying the pillows out to the car. She paced around my legs and cried. I kissed her on the nose and told her what I always tell her before we leave the house. 

It's okay. We'll be back soon. 



Sunday, August 14, 2022

The library is cool

I mean that literally. 

We keep the air on Cool, and most of our patrons love it, exclaiming excitedly how nice it feels when they walk inside, a much-needed break from the sweltering weather. And I like it because usually I am running around in that place, checking in cartloads of books and shlepping materials up and down the stairs now that the elevator is out of order. 

Not that I mind. I like the exercise, the bustle and movement. I've never been one to sit still for long. Even when I was home writing all day, I had to get up and stretch at least once an hour. Walk the dog. Do the dishes. Shuffle outside into the garden. I am a knee jiggler. A foot tapper. A pacer. 

Oh my God, sit down, my family has been known to say to me, and I pause mid-whirl, surprised that I was in motion. But back to the cool-ness of the library. Not everyone is a fan, a few patrons making their objections known to us quite emphatically, one even going so far as to write a strongly worded note. Which we acknowledge politely, but let it go. 

As much as we would love to, we can't make everybody happy. 

I want to remember this, but like other hard truths, I often forget it. Why can't we all just get along, I occasionally whine, and when I am in a particularly sad place, I cry about it. It has been the work of my life -- I was going to say, to make sense of things-- but the reality is that some things simply do not make sense and some people may never get along, and so I will amend that to:

It is the work of my life to come to terms with it. 

Accept the too-coldness of the room. Focus on the people I love, pace around them, sprinkling blankets and hot tea and comfy sweaters. But listen to them too, when they tell me, It’s okay now. You can stop.    

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Surprised by Watermelon

What happened was I thought it was a cucumber. 

That's what I'd planted, a labeled seedling, a gift from a gardening friend. And it did look like a cucumber at first. Small. Pale green. The vines I staked, the coiling tendrils, the delicate yellow flowers--all very cucumber-like. 

And who knew what variety my friend had given me--I mean, last week I was surprised by the weirdo arm-length white cucumber--so maybe this one was supposed to turn out bowling ball large, a darkening green? If I know anything about gardening, I know the more I know, the more I know I don't know. But isn't that the way with everything? Take the chamomile 

I planted two summers ago, the seller at the farmers market assuring me it would re-seed right where I planted it, so I took care. Found the perfect spot in my herb garden for it to take root, but then, the next spring it was gone. It wasn't until several weeks later I found an odd seedling sprouting in a place I would never have planted something, across the patio, right at the edge of my husband's barbecue grill.

I almost yanked it out, thinking it was some kind of weed, but no, it was the chamomile, the seeds carried by a bird or who knows what. The garden goes where it wants to go. This year, I found a surprise cherry tomato plant popping up by the oregano. Volunteers, my mother-in-law calls them, and I love that word, the whole idea of it, 

an unseen hand guiding the seed traffic, overseeing the design, and not just random accidents, the regurgitation of a robin, a shift of the breeze. And wouldn't it be nice if there were a garden-y ghost making note of the fertile cracks in the pavement, 

some kindly presence who slows down the green bean production at the moment you have had your fill of them and speeds up the ripening of the zucchini on the day you want to make zucchini bread? 

Don't we all love that volunteer friend who takes charge of the whole shebang, calculates the excessive number of white cucumbers from one plant, and nodding along, muttering to herself, suddenly snaps her fingers and announces,

Let's make this one a watermelon.  

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Four Cakes and a Cucumber

Six months ago, a year ago, I don’t have any sense of time anymore, a dear coworker was leaving the library and we sent her off with a little goodbye party, a cake, a card and best wishes in her new position at another library. Less than a month (two weeks?) later, another longtime coworker left, and it was back to the party, the cake. 

The same woman took charge of both cake-orderings, and then, a month later (a week?) SHE was the one leaving, off to her retirement in Florida, and this time I volunteered to order the cake. 

That was three cakes ago, (four?) and I am now officially, I guess? the cake orderer for people leaving the library and I must say I have it down to a science. This is not a one person job! First, you have to come up with the perfect design. This task has been delegated to our library's resident artist, Emma. (See here for one fun doodly sample of Emma's work.) 

Next step is a trip to the bakery at the local grocery store to confer with Danny, the cake designer, and my new friend. Danny has taught me that there is a real skill involved in what can be done with frosting and cake--a note here that we have gone from ordering 1/4th sheet cakes to choosing the smaller 1/8th design, complicating Danny's efforts, but honestly, there is only so much cake our dwindling staff can eat in two months,

six weeks? And further complicating the situation, when I ordered the third cake (fourth?) DANNY WAS NOT THERE! Apparently, he's off on Wednesdays, but someone else was happy to fill in and (can't remember her name, give me time) she did a lovely job, but I am feeling a little worn out with cakes. With dear coworkers leaving. All for good reasons. But still. I miss them. And cake--

(CONFESSION: I don't like cake. I have never eaten a slice of any of these cakes, lovely as they are)--

but anyway, cake cannot make up for the losses. To console myself, in the mornings before work, I keep busy in the garden, one day eying with curiosity and then with a little alarm, a cucumber, which seemed to be doubling in size every few days, and still a whitish/pale green. When I asked my gardener friend who gave me the seedling, she told me it's supposed to be this color and go ahead and pick it now. 

So I did, laughing, and laughing more when I saw that there were several other cucumbers growing, doubling in size right behind this one. 

With any luck we will have enough cucumber to eat for days, for weeks, for months. 

(see below for four cakes and a cucumber)

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Afternoon at the library

and boys spill inside, playing lightsabers, the battle edging into the new books section, giggling, shouting, one of the boys collapsing dramatically in front of the self-checkouts. The older woman browsing a cookbook looks up and we both raise our eyebrows and smile,

thinking (gratefully) how our parenting days are behind us, or maybe that's just me, and when did this happen? One moment I was washing the dishes, peering out the window at my kids darting across the lawn, my daughter and her little friends prancing with broomsticks pretending they were Harry Potter, my son and his best friend tinkering with the Medieval-style catapult they'd built, 

and now

they're all grown up and far away, the real world much more precarious than any they had ever played, and darker than any I had ever imagined for them. And believe me, I can imagine a lot. 

I read a book last week that I hesitate to recommend, not because it wasn't good, but because it did its job too well. Freaked me out, actually. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. It is marketed as Science Fiction, when there's not much science-y or fiction-y about it. Published in 1993, it takes place in the early 2020s, in a world of extreme climate change and societal breakdown. Oh, and lots and lots of guns. 

The narrator is a teenage girl, but it was the older folks in the story who interested me. Those people long for the past to what they perceive to be better times and are incapable, despite the imminent danger, of accepting reality. In the end (SPOILER!), they perish, and it's down to the younger generation to navigate the present. 

The book is supposed to be hopeful, I think, and isn't all of dystopian literature? No matter how terrible, there are always a few left to tell the tale, is what I used to say when I talked up these books to my students. 

But that was a long time ago, when a book like that seemed fantastical. When I was young myself, and so, naturally, assumed I would be one of the survivors. 

The boys pick themselves up and resume their lightsaber battle. That movie came out years and years before they were born, but isn’t it funny how perfectly they mimic the whoosh of electricity, the clank of light beams hitting light beams? I show them where we keep the Star Wars books and they seem weirdly surprised. 

I don't know why. I mean, we're in a library.